As a result of travel restrictions in and out of Canada due to COVID-19, Florida is likely to miss out on one of its prime tourist demographics this winter, Canadian snowbirds. Land border crossings between the United States and Canada have been barred since the start of the pandemic, except for business and commerce. Trucks carrying cargo cross-border can pass but few passenger are able to make such a trip.
According to Evan Rachovsky, director of research and communications for the Canadian Snowbird Association, more than 1 million Canadian residents each year spend their winter months in the U.S., including an astounding 500,000 who choose the Sunshine State.
Canadian tourists spend roughly $6.5 billion in the United States each year.
The Great White North represents the number one international tourism market for Florida and the United States.
For areas like Palm Beach, in just the first quarter of 2020, there were 121,000 Canadian tourists, which was projecting a record year before the pandemic struck.
According to Visit Florida, in 2019, Canada saw 3.6 million tourists flocking to Florida, equating
to 25% of all international tourism in the state. The United Kingdom came in second with 10.5%, or 1.5 million tourists.
Overall hotel demand in Florida is down 45.7% over the year.
Coupled with border restrictions is the secondary issue of health insurance for Canadians traveling south for the winter. There is no guarantee that Canadian health insurance can pay medical fees while its citizens are outside the country and United States hospitals may require upfront payments to cover any bills.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated that the border closure will be extended indefinitely. While the closure only affects land travel, some exceptionally determined Canadians are now flying to get to Florida anyway.
Businesses that rely on Canadian snowbirds each year are feeling the absence.